7 considerations for every person before writing a will

For the majority of people, setting up a will should be relatively uncomplicated and stress-free. However, there are many factors to consider before and during the process, and not all of them are something a person would automatically think about.

This guide provides insight to the primary factors will writers should think about ahead of the act itself, helping to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.

1.   What are my assets?

First of all, it is necessary to start by listing all of your existing assets. This could be anything from cash and investments to cars or other vehicles and any other personal possessions of worth.

Use the following as a checklist for when you are identifying your assets:

  • Property - your home and any other buildings
  • Cars and other vehicles
  • Cash
  • Investment accounts
  • Insurance policies
  • Bank accounts
  • Title deeds

It is essential also to remember that assets can and probably will be in a variety of locations, so you should take the time to identify where they are and how they can be accessed.

2.     Who will be appointed as executor?

An executor is an individual named in your will as the person who you want responsible for handling your affairs after your death.

Taking on this role can require a significant amount of work, which involves carrying out the following responsibilities:

  • Handling paperwork and other documents related to your estate
  • Gathering and presenting the assets of your estate
  • Making sure all debts, taxes and bills are paid using money in your estate
  • Distributing the remainder of your estate in accordance with details outlined in your will
  • Holding money or other assets ‘in trust’ for a beneficiary, who is often someone under the age of 18 at the time of your death

Of course, choosing your executor should be done with care and great consideration. These responsibilities can seem a lot to someone who has no experience in dealing with official and financial matters, therefore, be sure to choose wisely. In some cases, an executor who makes an error when carrying out this responsibility can be held personally liable for any losses.

It is advisable to speak to the person you are planning to appoint before writing your will to ensure they are fully aware of the task at hand.

It is worth bearing in mind that an executor may instruct a solicitor to deal with the administration of the estate on their behalf.

If you are unsure who to appoint as executor in your will, it is advisable to keep the following considerations in mind:

  • The person should be a responsible individual, who is willing to handle the legal, financial and administrative tasks involved
  • Ideally, your executor should be younger than you, ensuring there is a reasonable chance they will
  • out-live you
  • You can have two executors - in fact, this is recommended as it provides backup if your appointed executor dies or is otherwise incapacitated at the time of your death. Legally, a person can have up to four executors
  • If you have children who are over 18 years old, they can be appointed joint executors
  • You can appoint a professional - such as a solicitor or accountant - as one of the executors
  • If you leave anything to a child who is under 18 a ‘trust’ will be created where assets are held until the child reaches adulthood

3. Do I need to name a guardian?

You should appoint a guardian if you have children who are under the age of 18 at the time of your death. In the event you were the dole surviving parent the named person would be responsible for your child or children should you die before they reach adulthood.

If you fail to appoint a guardian in your will, and both parents die before the children turn 18, the courts will appoint someone to look after them instead. However, they will not necessarily appoint the individuals that you would have preferred to look after your children.

The role of a guardian requires great responsibility, and involves taking on significant duty of care for the surviving children. This can also involve considerable expense on the behalf of the guardian, and so is something that should be considered when you are writing your will.

Being a guardian involves the following responsibilities:

  • Day-to-day care of surviving children
  • Making important decisions about upbringing, education, health and welfare
  • In most cases, the guardian will also be named one of the trustees for the property held in trust for the child

When thinking about who you would like to take responsibility for your younger children when you pass away, consider the following factors:

  • Do you agree with their values?
  • Could this person provide a stable, safe and loving environment?
  • Do they have an existing relationship with your child/children?
  • Are they willing to handle the responsibility that caring for your child will bring?

4. Don’t opt for cost over quality

The idea of paying for professional support while writing a will can put people off doing so, but it is essential you do not compromise quality for the sake of cost. In recent years, unregulated will writers have received media attention for all the wrong reasons, leaving customers facing turmoil due to shoddy will writing.

Of course, seeking assistance from qualified, experienced professionals is recommended, as these can help you every step of the way throughout the process.

5. Inheritance tax

Put simply, inheritance tax is the money payable on the value of the estate of a person who has died. It is charged at 40% on the purpose of the estate over the threshold level, currently £325,000.

It is possible to minimise the amount of inheritance tax that will be payable on your death by familiarising yourself with the rules of how IHT is calculated, giving you the opportunity to organise your finances and will accordingly.

6. How will my assets be distributed?

As mentioned earlier, your assets are everything you own, from smaller personal possessions to land and property. You can leave these to whomever you wish. However, the Provision for Family and Dependents Act 1975 requires people to leave enough for their dependants to survive on.

When deciding how you wish to distribute your assets, there are some things that should be considered. Your dependents are usually your partner, your children and any other individuals you have been providing for financially. However, you would need to make arrangements for any individual who is not legally family.

If you want to leave gifts of money to a beneficiary, there are various ways to do so:

Giving a lump sum, which can be carried out in a number of ways:

  • Naming your intended beneficiary as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy - this will usually be your partner or child
  • Stating in your will that you want the beneficiary to receive the money in your savings accounts
  • Stating in your will that you intend to leave this individual a percentage of your total estate

By arranging life of interest, which takes form as a regular income. This can be done in a number of ways:

  • Arranging for the beneficiary to receive money from your pension
  • Leaving the beneficiary an investment that pays out regular profits, such as investment funds or bonds
  • Leaving the beneficiary some assets in a trust that pays them regular income

7. Your circumstances

Everybody’s situation is different, and it is always advisable to speak to a professional about your circumstances before writing a will, particularly if your estate is of a high value, you have young children under the age of 18 or you are a single parent.